By Jeff Morris, Barrhaven Independent
While the 2020-21 school year was unlike any before it, Ottawa Carleton District School Board Trustee Donna Blackburn wanted to do something special for this year’s graduates.
Blackburn, the Trustee for Barrhaven, Knoxdale and Merivale, has been driving throughout Nepean to personally deliver gift bags and handwritten notes to this year’s graduating high school students. She came up with the idea last year, delivering gift bags to graduates when it was announced that in-person graduation ceremonies would not be held.
“It was an especially difficult year for the graduating students,” Blackburn said. “Over a matter of just a few days, high school was over because of the pandemic. I wanted to do something to put a smile on their faces.”
Blackburn reached out to students on social media and they responded. She delivered the gift bags wearing a mask, rang doorbells, and then backed away “four or five feet.” The gift bag also contained a personalized, hand-written card from the trustee.
The year, Blackburn posted on social media that she was doing the same thing again. She has been delivering graduation gift bags to approximately 300 people.
“It doesn’t make up for how difficult this year has been on the graduating class,” she said, noting that the Class of 2021 had to cope with online learning, literally no social time with friends, no sports and no extra-curricular activities.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford stated late last month that he would like to see every school in Ontario hold an outdoor graduation for its students.
“I was totally happy when I heard that and I hope we can make it happen,” she said. “We are lucky in our schools that we have such dedicated administration and school staff. I am confident the students will get some sort of safe, in person graduation. They really deserve it.”